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17 Jan 11

Thousands in South Serbia Sign Petition Against Organ Trade Report

Several thousand ethnic Albanians in south Serbia have signed a petition in protest against allegations made in a Council of Europe draft report that link top Kosovo politicians with organ trafficking.

Nikola Lazic

Some 6,000 ethnic Albanians, or around 12 per cent of the electorate in Serbia's predominantly Muslim Presevo Valley, have signed the petition against the report drafted by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty, which names Kosovo's outgoing prime minister Hashim Thaci as the boss of a crime gang that sold body parts, carried out assassinations and dealt drugs.

These signatures, together with those collected from Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia, will be handed over to the EU rule of law mission in Kosovo, EULEX.

In his report, Marty accused Thaci, who was a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, of war crimes against Serbs and other non-Albanians and the trafficking of human organs taken from kidnapped and imprisoned Serbs and other civilians during the conflict in 1999.

Kosovo's government has denied the claims and denounced the allegations as a smear campaign against the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Kosovo state.

The signing of the petition, which lasted for four days, was held in Bujanovac and Presevo, municipalities at the border with Kosovo. It was organised by former fighters of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, which in late 2000 clashed briefly with Serbian security forces in the south of the country.

Ethnic Albanian officials in the region describe Marty’s report as tendentious and malicious, and say that it was written with the intention of discrediting the Albanian people.

Jonuz Musliu, former political leader of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja, told Balkan Insight that in his report Dick Marty “equalised the victims and criminals”, openly siding with the Serbs.

“Marty’s report is tendentious and directed against the entire Albanian people. Albanians in Kosovo were not committing crimes but defending themselves from Serb terror,” Musliu said.

“Marty is known as a great friend of the Serbs and his report is a part of the campaign against Albanians,” added Musliu, who is currently the speaker of the municipal assembly in Bujanovac.

Riza Halimi, the only ethnic Albanian MP in the Serbian Parliament, told local media that Marty’s report is a part of the political campaign before the announced negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina.

“In Kosovo, negotiations on the new government are underway, after which the start of talks with Belgrade is expected. That is why I doubt the authenticity of the claims from Marty’s report,” Halimi said.

“If that report really contains incriminating evidence against Thaci, then why haven't the international institutions in Kosovo already launched an investigation?” Halimi asked.

Skender Destani, president of the Democratic Union of the Valley, doubts that there was trafficking in human organs in Kosovo during the conflict.

"When it comes to human organs trafficking, as a physician I argue that such a thing, in those conditions, could not have happened. I therefore claim that that part of the report is false. Everything else is possible, and I leave it to the judicial bodies,” says Destani, who is certain that the report was deliberately released before negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina.

"The international community is seriously preparing for the dialogue in which both sides should stay calm and be completely relaxed at the beginning. That is why Marty’s report is the best instrument to disrupt both sides, especially Thaci,”  Destani said.

Orhan Rexhepi, one of the former commanders of the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac, says that Dick Marty is a “political charlatan” who “doesn’t have a single valid argument” in his report.

"Marty used Serb data in his report. Everything he quoted the Serb authorities have been using abundantly over the last several years. That is why this report is not grounded,” says Rexhepi, who is the leader of the right-wing National Movement of Albanians.

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